Mindfulness has become a hot topic over the last few years. With our lives becoming increasingly busy, a lot of people are looking for ways to live in the present. This is where mindful running comes in.
What is mindful running?
I admit ‘mindful running’ a vague term. Essentially it’s about being more mentally connected with your movement and not being distracted when you run.
According to Positive Psychology, mindful running is about bringing our attention back into the here and now. Adding that research is beginning to emerge that supports the benefits of mindful running.
In one 2016 study, it was found that directed meditation combined with running or walking helped to reduce symptoms of depression for depressed participants by almost 40 percent.
Shrugging off external pressures and distractions and listening to your body sounds simple but it’s surprisingly hard when you’re used to thinking about a million things at once.
It took me a while to reconnect with myself on a run. Being present is one of the hardest things to do when you have so many distractions, including your thoughts. You have to train your brain to be at peace.
In this blog post, I’d like to explain some tips and techniques that I’ve found useful over the years to help me practice mindful running.
Once you get used it, it soon becomes a go-to way to run as it’s so calming and relaxing. But when you’re starting out, try not to put too much pressure on yourself to get it straight away. It will soon get easier so just enjoy yourself and head out the door.
How to practice mindful running
Unplug from technology
Technology and social media have invaded our lives – and our runs.
Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of positives when it comes to technology and social media, but they have made it all the more harder for us to switch off and reconnect with things like nature and the outdoors.
Ask yourself: how many times do you go out for a walk or run and take your phone with you – either to listen to music or track your run?
I agree there are benefits to taking a phone with you for safety reasons. But they can distract us from what really matters when it comes to living in the moment.
The first step in mindful running is forgetting about these tools for distraction like your phone and sports watch. By getting rid of these external distractions, you give yourself more room to focus on being in the present.
How many times have you been on a run and you hear your phone go off? Perhaps you receive a WhatsApp message from your partner, family member or friend which takes you out of your flow. You stop and read it or think about reading it for the next two miles of your run.
By taking your phone out of the equation, you no longer have to worry about it on your run.
This can be harder said than done if you’re used to always running with you phone. Start by leaving your phone at home on a few runs here and there and see how you get on.
Once you’re more comfortable without it, start to increase the amount of runs that you can safely run without your phone.
Of course, running with a phone is a safety mechanism for a lot of runners who want to have it on them in case anything goes wrong.
If this is your concern, then choose a local route that is near landmarks and allows you options in case you do get into trouble.
Ditch the music
A few years ago, I couldn’t go anywhere without my headphones. I used to listen to music all the time when out walking and running. I couldn’t stand the silence.
Fast forward today and I rarely listen to music when I’m out running. Instead, nature has become my soundtrack on my run. The sound of a bird or the wind blowing is incredibly calming.
By not listening to music, I’m also in a better place to listen to my breathing and observe my movements and stride more carefully.
I’ve learnt so much more about my body since ditching the music on my runs. I’ve also developed a greater connection with the world around me.
Not to mention the safety aspects of not listening to music on my run. I now feel more aware of my surroundings, especially when I choose routes that are near busy roads.
I learnt last year that mouth breathing is a stress response, and that nostril breathing is better at keeping you in a more relaxed state.
Many runners underestimate the importance of breathing when running. There’s no complex formula to getting it right, but mindful running can help to decode your breathing to determine where you’re at.
To bring your body out of a stress state, breathe deeply and slowly into the bottom of your lungs and really engage your diaphragm.
Breathing deeply can help you re-focus when you feel stressed or distracted. It can also help you to achieve that calm feeling.
Deep breathing is not just a tool for running. If you ever feel anxious or stressed in your everyday life, it’s a great technique to employ to help you feel calm.
Give yourself plenty of time
Some of my best runs have been on a weekend when I’ve given myself enough time to really enjoy them. The moment you set yourself a time limit on a run, you give yourself a distraction.
Time limits have many benefits if you’re training for a race or wanting to beat your PB. But for a mindful run, it’s best to forget about how quickly you want to run and just surrender to the moment.
So often on these long runs, I’ve taken the time to absorb the environment around me. I love run exploring and having the time to do this creates a better experience – you’re not worried about getting to work on time or arriving at your next appointment.
Check out my post on how to keep running fun if you’re looking for new ideas to inject some excitement into your run.